I’ve always thought there was something timeless about baseball. There are changes to the game, but for the most part it’s stayed the same. 42 is a reminder of how we’ve progressed as a sport and a nation. When it ended I felt moved and inspired, but a part of me was also a little sad.
Baseball is America’s past time, but it’s also a multimillion dollar business. 42: The Jackie Robinson Story is a reminder of that. A major theme in the movie is money. It’s the demonized side of sports. Good players bring in more revenue; so whether they’re good guys or jerks, if they can hit, field and run well, their managers are going to want them on the team. That’s how, in part, Jackie Robinson made the Brooklyn Dodger’s roster.
Most of us know the story of Jackie Robinson. He broke the color barrier, set athletic records and was an inspirational leader in the locker room and for the country. 42 shows just a fraction of his incredible life, but not just on the field.
Chadwick Boseman takes on the complex role of Robinson following the progression into his rookie season. He’s able to show the ballplayer’s strength, compassion and frustrations — all emotions Robinson must internalize. The pain is chilling. His strength is inspirational. To me, those particular moments set this movie apart from other sports movies because they appear true to the times.
In contrast to Robinson’s character, Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Branch Rickey is very one-dimensional. With that said, he’s one of my favorite characters. The viewers don’t need to know Rickey’s personal life, we know he wants Robinson on the team and for him to be treated equal. Ford has a storied career, but this is one of his most powerful roles. I got lost in his monologues, laughed at his one-liners and was entranced by the stories of hope.
I’m a sucker for the sugar-coated, rose colored glasses view of the sport in baseball movies. 42 balances the heavy topic of racism with some lighter moments. It captures the magic of a home run, the romance of watching an evening game and the fine balance between athleticism and mental toughness. It also depicts stomach-turning hate. Despite the controversy and frustration by some I’ve talked with that only “the best of the worst” was shown, the overall message is clear.
42 is rated PG 13. The defamatory slurs and incomprehensible actions aren’t as volatile as what happened in the late 1960s. Those were some of the hardest parts of the film to watch. While they were softened, I believe they do serve a purpose — as a starting point for the conversation of racism, progression and how you treat others.
Overall, I look forward to seeing this movie again. Like the game of baseball, there are many layers to 42. A pleasant surprise for the audience was a surprise cameo by Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. The Twins said he wasn’t aware he was a part of the movie until he saw a special screening during Spring Training. You’ll have to see the movie to see how and why he’s a part of it.
42 is in theaters nationwide starting Friday, April 12. The Twins will host the annual tradition on April 15 versus the Angels. The first 5,000 fans will get a Diversity Day T-shirt.